Is the 100-Up Exercise the Best Running Exercise of All Time?
 by James Laughlin, PTA

The 100-Up Exercise credited to G. Walter George in the late 1880’s saw a resurgence in popularity following the release of “Born to Run: A Hidden tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by AP correspondent and author Christopher McDougall. G. Walter George credits this exercise in part to helping him achieve several mid distance records. Today coaches prescribe a variation of this exercise to assist runners with their run form. Recently, as part of my recovery from foot injury, I have added this drill to improve run form and tolerance to running activity. Is The 100-Up Exercise the best running exercise of all time? I’ll let you make your own verdict.

Why do The 100-Up Exercise?

The purported benefits of this exercise are quite impressive considering the time involved and lack of special equipment. In fact, this exercise requires no equipment, including shoes. Participants are encouraged to perform the drill in bare feet. Further this drill should take no more than a minute or two.

Benefits of The 100-Up Exercise

  • Improves running efficiency through improved technique
  • Increases strength by directly conditioning “running” muscles
  • Improves performance by acting as a dynamic warm up
  • Decreases risk of injury through improved running mechanics
  • Return to run following injury in a controlled environment

As you’ll learn below, set up and focus on technique while moving the lower body through full range of motion takes the majority of thinking out of this exercise.

What is The 100-Up Exercise?

Many track and mid distance athletes will recognize this exercise as no more than the high knee drill, which is not accurate once we look at the specifics of the technique. The 100-Up Exercise has two components, the precursor minor exercise progressing to the major, or The 100-Up Exercise. Runners should start with the “minor” comprised of single leg marching, focusing on proper run technique and posture. Progress to The “major”, adding a dynamic component of running in place while maintaining good running posture and running mechanics.

Performing The 100-Up Exercise

The 100-Up Exercise has two components. There is both a Minor and Major variation of this exercise. Prepare for the Major with the Minor Exercise. This low impact variant will focus heavily on technique without physical strain. This is a particularly good place for a recovering runner to begin as well.

The Minor 100-Up Exercise

  • Stand in front of a mirror with two parallel lines of tape, running perpendicular to the mirror, on the floor approximately hip width or 8” apart
  • Stand tall with elbows bent as if to be running
  • Focus on one leg, drive knee up to hip height (this is important) while driving the same side elbow back
  • Return foot same start position (this is also important) and bring elbow forward
  • Repeat on the same side for 10-20 or even 30 repetitions and then repeat on the side

Stand tall and stay in place. Arm swing is in concert with the movement and simulates running technique. The knee must rise to the hip, if you are unable to maintain this range of motion stop. The goal is to stay in place and not moving forward, backward or laterally. Once you feel comfortable with this technique and can perform 30 repetitions correctly you can move to the major.

100-up exercise
100-up exercise

The Major 100-Up Exercise

  • Assume start position outlined in step one of the “minor”. Alternately you can perform this in the field without alignment cues.
  • Push off from the greater toe and drive knee to hip height
  • As you return ball of foot to start position begin driving off the ball of the opposite foot
  • You should feel as though you are running in place on the balls of your feet
  • Remember your knee must drive to hip height and arm swing is in concert with the leg movement

Initially you will find this exercise strenuous, you’ll not likely be able to maintain the correct technique for the full 100 reps. Do not despair start slow and build your endurance.

Exercise Prescription

  • Frequency: Daily
  • Intensity: Variable
  • Time: 10 – 100 reps
  • Type: Low impact stationary, Dynamic

Variations

  • Marching: Perform the Minor in a marching fashion
  • Alter surface: On uneven surface such as grass or on an Airex
  • Add propulsion: Advance to skip drill (high knees). Technically you are no longer doing 100-Up

Is The 100-Up Exercise the greatest exercise for runners? Give it a thirty-day challenge and decide for yourself. I personally have liked the focus on technique and some form of warm up.  Changes I’ve noted in a short time are increased cadence; decreased over-stride and reduced foot pain while running.

If you have any questions or are in any pain when performing the 100-Up Exercise please reach out online or give us a call at 866-588-0230.